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New App to Give Insight into Swazi Language and Culture


Always wanted to know more about the Swazi language and culture but found plane tickets a tad too expensive?

With the new SiSwApp that is to be launched in February next year, the culture of the beautiful African country will unfold itself before your very eyes!

Last month, website HumanIPO revealed that one of the African innovations that was chosen to be presented at the Telecom World 2013, an event organised by International Telecommunication Union’s, was a Swaziland-made app called SiSwApp. 

SiSwApp had been developed to give educate people about the culture and language of the African country of Swaziland.

According to Jackson, it features a translator, a language learning guide en specific information about the country, among other things. According to its director of product development Timothy McDermott, the app’s is mainly intended for aid workers and tourists.

Currently, the app is tested by a number of people before it will be released in February 2014. According to McDermott, there are already a number of organisations that have shown their interest in the application. The Peace Corps, for example, has already agreed to buy it, and talks are taking place with Medecins sans Frontieres plus a number of local schools and institutions. Next to these businesses, McDermott also expects the Swazi government to join in as it encourages local IT solutions.

McDermott believes SiSwApp has found a gap in the app market, as more and more tourists visit the country every year. He states that in 2013, the total number of tourists was nearly as high as that of the indigenous people of Swaziland itself! These tourists mainly come to enjoy the Swazi culture, which is a lot simpler with the cultural and language guide that is provided by the app.


map of swaziland


In addition to the tourists, McDermott says, the app can help aid workers too, because there aren’t that many people in Swaziland that speak English. Moreover, the learning resources for the local SiSwati language are scarce – the available books are very old and a private tutor is only an option if you have a lot of money to spend.

For these desperate aid workers, the SiSwApp comes to the rescue: according to McDermott, the app’s database includes more words than the regular SiSwati dictionary!


Next to helping them understand the language, the SiSwApp app also gives tourists and aid workers a little more insight into the Swazi culture. McDermott believes the culture is often misunderstood by foreigners. However, these misunderstandings will probably soon diminish after the launch of the app, even more so because it does not need an internet connection to work. McDermott says this offline functionality is a very necessary feature of the app as the internet connections in Swaziland, if available at all, are often very slow.


According to Jackson, SiSwApp will be available on for devices operating on both iOS and Andriod and will use a so-called “freemium model.” Moreover, it will be made possible for local companies to advertise on the free version of the app. In addition, McDermott says, SiSwApp will sell its software to other IT businesses in the country as well.

This way, he says, he hopes to boost the Swazi ICT sector, as there is no significant mobile app system in the country yet. In time, McDermott hopes to organise free workshops to teach the Swazi youths valuable IT skills so the entire country can join in on the technological advancement.

Photo by Kerrin Naude on Unsplash

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